Family homelessness exists in Cincinnati, and HPCUMC has chosen to be a part of the solution by volunteering as a “Host Congregation” for IHN, Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati. IHN is a family homeless shelter located in Walnut Hills at 990 Nassau St.in Walnut Hills. Every year, HPCUMC commits to serve as a Host Congregation for 4 weeks. I am grateful to the many volunteers (including staff) who serve for IHN and to our congregation for the financial support budgeted every year to support this ministry.
We just recently concluded our 2nd 2014 Host Week. During that week, we served 4 families; 3 single parents, 1 single grand-mother and 11 children (the 41 year old grandmother had 5 of her grandchildren with her). Our guests stay with us at our Hyde Park campus during the week; arriving by bus around 5:15 p.m. each night. We serve them dinner, visit with the adults, play with the children and provide warm, safe beds for the night (Sunday school classrooms are made up with beds and serve as the guests’ bedrooms for the week). After a breakfast on the go, the families leave around 6:45 a.m. to head back to the IHN Day Center where the parents work on their case plan, children are shuttled to school, etc.
Approximately 45 individuals from our church signed up to serve for our last host week: some prepared meals; some just came and ate with our families as our dinner hosts; some helped with the laundry after the week ended; some just came to play cards or color with the children; others donated to our pantry supplies; and still others volunteered to sleep over for the night (in their own room) in order to help get the guests off in the morning. The grandmother (with 5 of her 10 grandchildren with her), could not have been more gracious and appreciative of our hospitality. I was amazed by her love for her grandchildren. We all celebrated with her on Wednesday of the week as she had finally completed all the paperwork and purchased gym shoes so that all 5 children were able to go to school for their first day. No easy feat when you are homeless, but she did it with a smile on her face.
God directs us specifically to care for the poor, feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. Nothing could be more clear, and IHN enables us to do that in a caring and respectful manner. As a volunteer, I consider it an honor to be able to serve these families, and I believe others would say the same. Is it easy? No, not always. Do I have the time? No, not usually. Do I wish we could do more? Yes. Do I wonder what will happen to Pedro, Margherita, Maria, Julianna and Erianna (the 5 grandchildren) who stayed with us last week? Yes. Do I pray for them? Yes, always.
But 4 families at a time, one week at a time, HPCUMC makes a difference, and maybe one day Cincinnati won’t need IHN, but right now it does. To find out more about IHN, please visit the website, www.Ihncincinnati.org, and if you think this might be a ministry where your gifts could make a difference please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sarah Putman (871-1345; email@example.com) and we promise to find a spot for you. We have 2 more host weeks coming up before the end of the year: October 5th-12th and November 30th-Dec. 7th.